On Thursday, its budget deadline, the state Legislature approved a $132.5 billion spending plan that closes Albany's $10-billion deficit, cuts overall expenditure by 2 percent, and does so without borrowing money or raising taxes.
"It is a new day in Albany," said Gov. Andrew Cuomo. "Government needs to recognize the new economic reality, government needs to tighten its belt and cut the waste, just like every family in this state has done."
The governor said the 2011-12 budget is one that will encourage economic growth and job creation for the residents of New York State, rather than serving special- interest groups and lobbyists.
"We must do more to clean up Albany and restore the promise of New York State government," Cuomo said, "but this was a great step forward."
Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Rockville Centre, said the newly passed budget dovetails with Senate Republicans' goals of reducing state spending without raising taxes, while at the same time helping to create jobs.
"With this budget we have begun to restore hope to millions of New Yorkers who want state government to spend less, tax less and do more to encourage job creation," Skelos said. "The budget achieved all of these goals by reducing overall state spending by getting rid of some of the devastating tax and fee increases enacted by Democrats over the past two years …"
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said his Democratic caucus would have liked to see the extension of the so-called "millionaire's tax," which places an income tax surcharge on wealthy New Yorkers and would raise approximately $1 billion in revenue for the state. But he acknowledged that the governor has put forward a fiscally sound budget that benefits New York residents.
"The final product, the 2011-12 state budget, is a sobering one. Difficult and painful decisions had to be made to address the fiscal reality facing our state," Silver said. "The Assembly majority, working with the governor, was able to achieve some critical restorations that will soften the cuts affecting working families, students, senior citizens and or most vulnerable populations."
The on-time passing of this year's budget is a far cry from last year, when the Legislature approved a spending plan in August, several months late. March 31 is the earliest the budget has been approved since Cuomo's father, Mario Cuomo, was governor, back in 1983.
The governor admitted that the budget is only the first step in getting New York's finances back in order, but expressed confidence that the state would reach that point.
"This budget works for the people of New York," Cuomo said. "We have more to do, but we are on our way, together."